Authors: Jeanette Torres
(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Syria's parliamentary elections nearly 10 days ago spurred just over half of all eligible voters to head to the polls, government officials in Damascus claimed Tuesday.
Syrian election committee chairman Khalaf al-Izzaoui boasted that about five million Syrians voted to elect a new parliament although there was no way of verifying this figure since independent monitors were not allow to observe polling stations.
Opposition groups had called for a boycott of the May 7 election, contending that it was a sham attempt by President Bashar al-Assad to claim he brought political reform to Syria.
For instance, while several new parties took part in the election aside from the usual ruling Baathist bloc, activists alleged they were simply creations of the authoritarian government.
Critics also said there was virtually no voting in cities and towns that have been under siege since al-Assad instituted a crackdown on his political foes in March 2011 that has been responsible for between 9,000 and 11,000 deaths.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday the Syrian vote was "neither free, fair, transparent or representative of the Syrian people" since it occurred in an atmosphere of ongoing violence.
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